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SPRINGFIELD — College and university presidents support Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to offer more grants to low-income students.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — College and university presidents support Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to offer more grants to low-income students.

The governor today held a closed-door meeting at the executive mansion with university and community college presidents as he tries to shore up support for his State of the State pledge to increase funding for the Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP, a program that awards grants to students whose parents earn on average no more than $35,000 a year.

However, Quinn’s office is not commenting on how much funding the governor will be requesting, or from where that money will come.

“Details of the governor’s plan will come Feb. 22 during the budget speech,” said Kelly Kraft, Quinn’s budget spokeswoman.

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale President Glenn Poshard said after the meeting Wednesday that Quinn’s proposal will help keep thousands of students enrolled in a college or university.

“It’s extremely important to us. We have a large number of low-income students at SIU,” Poshard said. “The governor has ensured us that he will go all out for the MAP grant, and we were all very appreciative of that.”

Nearly 1,600 of SIU Carbondale’s 20,000 students are eligible for MAP grants.

But while Quinn and the college and university leaders discussed spending more on MAP grants, the reality is the state owes many of these schools millions of dollars in overdue payments.

Poshard said SIU Carbondale is owed nearly $86 million in state aid payments for faculty salary or campus improvements.

“Well, we know there is only so much money to go around, but we are hopeful that the governor is making this effort, and we are going to try to get behind him,” Poshard said.

Late state aid payments are one of the factors driving up the cost of college, said Robin Steans, executive director of the education advocacy group Advance Illinois. Steans said as the state sends less and less money to colleges and universities, those institutions have to turn to students to make up the difference.

“One reason that Illinois is so unaffordable is because the state has shifted the burden of funding colleges and universities,” Steans said Wednesday.

Steans said Quinn should “be applauded” for trying to expand the MAP program, but she warns that new dollars for MAP grants should not come at the expense of other education needs.

“These are extremely difficult times to make that investment,” Steans said.

Al Bowman, president of Illinois State University in Normal, said schools in Illinois are not the only ones to see students who need more financial assistance.

“Nationally, funding for public higher education is at a 25-year low … And we’ve got some tough times ahead of us,” Bowman said. “(But) I do think in Illinois there is particular support for public higher education, and I think the governor’s support for the MAP program is a good example of that.

The U.S. Department of Education released a study in 2008 that echoed Bowman’s estimates.

But state Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Bradley, said the governor’s focus on four-year colleges and universities is alienating several high school graduates.

“Instead of going to a four-year university with a master’s degree in something, they’d rather have the training and be a master electrician or a master plumber and be certified statewide for that trade job,” Dugan said.

Dugan added that she hopes the governor also could find money for technical or vocation training.

Illinois Statehouse News reporters Stephanie Fryer and Anthony Brino contributed to this report.

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1 Comment

  1. Support for colleges

    First, I support college education.

    However each time the government bodies give more to the colleges—even through grants to students–, the colleges think 'we have all this new money in our hands or the students so they can afford higher tuition–so we will increase it.'

    The schools have to also become more accountable for their budgets and spending.

    As far as the grants to low income students.  Colleges are not suppose to be welfare agencies.  The students should be admitted on the basis of ability AND the ability to survive in college.  It does little to help the student or the college or the budget of those or the state if students are admitted with the high expectation that they won't survive or learn anything—in fact the students may be worse off because failure can hurt their drive.

    Obviously it is in the K-12 that ALL students must get a quality education so they can succeed in college [and which college they select].   College is not the place for remedial education and it was found years ago students who have to go through remediat education resent it].

    There may be factors such as poverty, families that don't support or even hinder the child, but it is up to the schools to evaluate this.  I don't know if they still do it, but U.Chicago was famous for admitting students who may not 'seem' to meet the academic standards [or even finished high school] but they did it by evaluating the students BEFORE they enter—not after and have them fail.

    Urbana was famous for years [I don't know if still true] for having classes designed to weed-out students—and large numbers at that.  Setting up students for failure is not the way to go and there is only so much money ! Evaluate the students and help them decide if college is the place for them and which school.  As an economist once said '…it is better to graduate from ____ than to flunk out of MIT." [____ was an Illinois school].

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